feel like the oldest person at work

When You Feel Like the Oldest Person at Work

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Have you ever been “weirded” out by being
one of the older ones in the group?
How do you manage it all when you
feel like the oldest person at work?

I can’t tell you when I became one of the “old chicks” in the room, but I did. Seems like only yesterday, I was the youngest (or the “baby”) of just about every group. Now, I’m one of the older people in the mix. When you feel like the oldest person at work, it can impact confidence. Truthfully, it hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve talked to friends who feel insecure around younger colleagues. This hasn’t happened to me yet.  I’m weirdly more comfortable being the older one than I was being the “baby” in the group anyway. I often felt patronized and talked down to – who needed that?

Yeah, being one of the older ones in a group works for me. Girl, I just find my own rhythm and remain true to myself.  I guess that’s wisdom for any of us in any type of group situation, right?

Well, over the last few years, I’ve been particularly interested in how the young and the older relate to When you feel like the oldest person at work it can be challengingone another.  Not sure why. I’ve just been curious about it, that’s all. And, I’m not the only one.  There are tons of articles, studies and white papers on this very subject.

But, for my own 40-something purposes (and nosy nature), I’m conducting my [very informal] observation study.

From what I’ve seen, sometimes a mutual awkwardness exists between the groups.  Other times, you can see a genuine comradery and true fellowship.  Either way, I’ve come to some definite conclusions about the people born between 1943 and 2002 and here it is:  much of what pulls us apart (and brings us together) is largely rooted in perceptions, misconceptions and some closed-mindedness.

Before I go any deeper, let me say these are generalities and based on my own “wittle” experiences. I am too smart to believe that people behave and respond certain ways simply because they were born in a certain time frame. That would be just as stupid as believing people born in a specific months always respond similarly.

  • Baby Boomer: born 1943 to 1960 (aged 56-73 today)
  • Gen-Xer: born 1961 to 1981 (aged 35 to 55 today)
  • Millennial: born 1982-2002 (aged 14 to 34 today)

With that said, here are my conclusions in further detail:

“It’s not you; it’s me”

As you know, a perception is pretty much a way of regarding, perceiving or believing something. All of this begins in our own minds. Honey, anything limited to one’s own mind is already scary space. That’s why it’s good to talk things out with other people.

You know you can work yourself into a full-blown tizzy by thinking negative thoughts prior to hanging out or working with Millenials.  I’ve seen it done.

“I have nothing in common with them”

“They are so silly”

“We should divide our group by age”

In this particular instance, I remember my buddy being just plan upset about attending a social event with all those  twenty-something “kids”.

She’s going to kill me;
but I didn’t say her name, so we’re cool, right?

As I told her, why stimulate all those insecure and uncomfortable feelings? Negative energy you do not need!  It all starts in the head. For example, you may predict the younger people won’t be open to you  as being one of the older ones in the group or able to relate to your interests.  You could even talk yourself into feeling old-fashioned, boring or irrelevant. Who hasn’t been there or felt that way at some point?  The key is to NOT stay there.

I’ve actually found these thoughts can really be far from true.

In fact, the Millenials in my world seem incredibly open, interested and find me rather cool -or at least that’s what they tell me.  Seriously, several of my Gen-Xers buddies have had similar experiences with the Millenials in their lives too.  I think it’s how we approach the relationships and how well we silence negative head noise. Again, that’s with anything.

A Fascinating Generation…

In my opinion, Gen Xers are fascinating because of how we were socialized and how we matured. Think about it; we grew up having to take care of ourselves. In fact, we’re the first generation – as a whole – that grew up this way. We even had a nifty name for it – they called us “latchkey kids”.

By the late 60s and 70s, our parents had found their “voices”; our mothers were empowered, Honey.  They threw on those suits – shoulder pads and all – and earned their coins which means many of us had to pretty much raise ourselves. This made for an independent, instinctual and intuitive generation. Disclaimer: my grandma lived with us, so I didn’t have these experiences. Most of my friends did.

We also have a discerning bent because we grew up with lying politicians and fully-televised scandals. Remember, I’m talking about as a whole generation.  Additionally, as we were coming of age, the global markets looked completely different than it did one generation before.  America, although still formidable, was no longer the global powerhouse of our parents’ childhood.

Another element to consider is that we benefited from the civil rights movement one hundred percent. Which means we could unabashedly step over the broken pieces of the doors and glass ceilings our parents knocked down. Remember the characters on the television show “A Different World”?  I think this makes those of us of color exceedingly ambitious, hard-workers in the traditional sense of the words.

Being one of the older ones in the group
Oh, how sweet it is!

Each the above may make us somewhat interesting to Millennials.  Not so much because they admire us, but maybe because they can relate to us.

Being one of the older people in a room doesn't take my power; it asserts it. Click To Tweet

Let me say more…

Although Millennials were not the first large-scale generation to grow up in single parent homes (or with two working parents) they can relate to many of our experiences. Divorce rates continue to soar just as it did when we were young. They can relate to working parents and one-parent households just as much as we did.  This means they built the same competencies, attributes and strengths we did; they just realize them differently.

In the end, perceptions are way too flimsy on which to build sturdy relationships. Instead, pitch the pre-dispositions, open your mind and approach the relationships with a clean slate.  As long as you don’t “talk down” or condescend, you may find you have way more in common with twenty and thirty-somethings than you think. I know that’s becoming true in my life almost every day.

Other stuff online:
5 Things Every Boss Should Know About Working With Millennials  by Alyson Krueger ,
It’s easy to find endless articles on working relationships between the generations. I like this one.

The Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen X, And Millennials Are ‘Wiser Together’ by Kari Henley
I especially enjoyed reading this piece. It recounts an intentional event in which the generations came together to talk and share. I would LOVE to attend something like this!!!  Wouldn’t you?




  1. I love this! I’m a millennial, and I’d speak to the flip side of that, being the youngest person in the room is often intimidating and could be uncomfortable if you choose to not embrace it. I’ve definitely been the oldest person in the room, too, and I agree, there is a lot to be said for really taking pride in that and offering up different experiences and perceptions!

  2. I’m a gen Xer, and I’m often the oldest in my group. I had kids older in life, so lots of the parents are quite a bit younger. We definitely all learn from each other, and hopefully, they think I’m as cool as I think they are 😉

    1. Love your spirit, Shann! My last one is a “late in life” arrival too, so I totally relate. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  3. Hey girl,
    I’ve always been the baby of the group, hanging out with the older crowd much before I turned of legal age!

    I guess I am a millennial being born in 1982 but frankly I don’t consider myself that at all but more Gen Xer. I’m actually perturbed to be lumped into the millennial category because most millennials, I feel, have this ridiculous sense of entitlement and don’t want to work for what they get. It’s embarrassing and appalling some of the behaviours I’ve seen in life, commuting around in Toronto and in the workplace.

    Anyways, that’s my rant. Haha! I saw your post and thought, I’ve always been the baby of friends, and thought your post would be a good one. :

    A pleasure meeting you.

    1. Hi Lindsay!
      We have that in common – I always hung with (and dated) the older group too! 🙂 Maybe that’s why I’m more comfortable with this stage in life. I’ve always been an old soul.

      I have a feeling that no label would fit your wonderful personality! I’ll consider you an honorary Xer. 🙂 Have a great evening and thanks for bringing some sunshine to My40somethinglife.com!

  4. I’m a Gen-X-er, though on the younger end at 38. I’m loving life at this age. I had my first child at 24 and my last at 36, so I’ve had the experience of being a “younger” mom in my son’s kindergarten class and will have the experience of being the “older” mom in my 1-year-old’s kindergarten class in another four years. And I’m totally OK with that!

    1. I had a bit of a gap between my boys too (almost identical to yours). I’m definitely one of the more “seasoned” moms in my 4 grader’s class. Just like you, doesn’t bother me a bit. Thanks for commenting!

  5. As a 40+ person, I have found myself feeling out of the loop with younger people at times. But everyone has something in common if you look for it. we’re all human after all.

  6. I’m the Gen-Xer in a group of Millennials and although we are in different stages of life, we get along well because we focus more on the things we have in common over all of the ways we differ. I think any age gap can be bridged if you just focus on the commonalities.

  7. The older I get…the more I have in common with everyone older than me. haha! I love your perspective though. Sometimes we do separate ourselves on age when really, we can learn so much more from mixing with different generations.

    1. Hey, I think the same is true for me! I love being around people older than me and I’m finding we do have lots in common – usually it’s fight against the gray, hot flashes and joint aches. Oh well. LOL

    1. Cool! Yes, it’s totally an individual thing. I’m embracing this season.

      Also, I have one kiddo whose a Millennial too. Woohoo! 😀🙌🏽

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